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March 21, 2011

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Pensioner crushed in scaffold collapse

A member of the public was seriously injured when an unsecured scaffold overturned during high winds.

Ashbrook Construction Services Ltd was the principal contractor during the renovation of a retail outlet in Shields Road, Byker, in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. The firm sub-contracted Skyline Scaffolding Ltd to erect scaffolding around the front of the building while the work took place, between 14 January and 14 March 2009.

The scaffolding was originally erected with four lifts and had wooden hoardings and impervious sheeting attached to it. The structure was secured to the building using only four through-ties. As work on the higher levels of the building was completed the scaffolding was reduced in height to a single working platform. When Skyline Scaffolding reduced the height of the structure it also removed the ties, which meant that there was nothing securing the scaffold in place.

On 14 March 2009, a 68-year-old woman was walking past the building with relatives, when the scaffold overturned in high winds and landed on top of her. She suffered double fractures to her right hip joint and right femur, and puncture wounds to her right ankle. She spent 12 days in hospital and is still in pain to this day.

The HSE issued an Improvement Notice to Ashbrook Construction Services on 18 March 2009, which required it to ensure the site manager received adequate health and safety training.

HSE principal inspector, Rob Hirst, told SHP there was an inadequate number of ties securing the original scaffolding, and the structure had not been properly inspected before the work began, or at regular intervals as the job progressed. He said: “This incident could, and should, have been prevented. The lady was seriously injured and was lucky not to be killed as a result of this incident. And things could have been even worse had the scaffolding collapsed when workers were using it.

“Skyline Scaffolding Ltd failed to erect the scaffolding properly by not securing it adequately, and Ashbrook Construction Services Ltd failed to ensure the scaffolding was inspected before work began and then regularly once it was in progress.”

Ashbrook Construction Services appeared at Newcastle Magistrates’ Court on 16 March and pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £3000 and ordered to pay £2091 towards costs.

In mitigation, the firm said it had no previous convictions and regretted the incident. It has subsequently complied with the Improvement Notice.

Skyline Scaffolding Ltd failed to attend the hearing and was found guilty in its absence of breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974 and reg.8(b) of the Work At Height Regulations 2005, for failing to ensure the scaffolding was adequately secured.

The court heard that the company has gone into liquidation, but magistrates imposed a fine of £10,000 and ordered the firm to pay £4182 in costs.

After the hearing, principal inspector Hirst said: “Each company had varying responsibilities, but were complicit in failing to ensure the scaffold remained stable. Both parties should have been aware that the addition of wooden hoardings and impervious sheeting increased the loading on the structure.

“I would urge all those involved in the supply and use of temporary work platforms such as scaffolding to ensure that they are erected by competent persons and are subject to inspection before work starts, and then at least every seven days, or following alteration, or effects of adverse weather.”

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11 years ago

The fines are too low. The potentail for fatlities here was massive. Look at the fines in recent Fire order cases ( New Look etc) those shouild be the benchmark.

11 years ago

i find it incredible in this day and age a company can receive such a small fine for such a serious breach, also this ruse of going into liquidation needs to be stopped.
they should confiscate the property of the scaffold companies senior directors.